In an unexpected and unprecedented public criticism of, emerging US ally, Indonesia, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama quietly took Indonesia to task for human rights abuses in their battered province of West Papua this month.
Just prior to this year’s ASEAN summit, that both the US Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama attended, Hillary issued a statement that certainly shocked Indonesia.
Clinton responded to a student’s question at the Asia Pacific Economy Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, saying:
“The U.S. government has very directly expressed concerns about the violence and the abuse of human rights (in West Papua).”
“There needs to be continuing dialog and political reforms in order to meet the legitimate needs of the Papua people, and we will be raising that again directly and encouraging that kind of approach.”
Indonesian president’s spokesperson for foreign affairs Teuku Faizasyah rejected Hillary’s statement with typical denial:
“We’ve already made it clear that there are no systemic human rights violations in Papua. There are only isolated incidents.”
This statement came out at a time the human rights situation in Papua is really very alarming.
Indonesian security forces violently dispersed an assembly of 5,000 Papuans on October 19th, killing 6 and arresting 300, in Jayapura. Police and military began firing after a Papuan declaration of independence was recited. October also saw several incidents of Indonesian security force violence surrounding a Labor Strike at the Freeport-Mcmoran Grasberg Mine that began in September. The fatal shooting of a miner provoked criticism from the Australian Green Party.
“There needs to be a thorough investigation into the shooting and acts of violence that occurred against ordinary workers.”
“I am deeply concerned that the conflict in West Papua is escalating . The only long term solution is to ensure that the West Papuan people are free to determine their own future.”
– Australian Senator Richard DiNatale
US President Barack Obama also raised the Papua issue in a bilateral meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the ASEAN summit in Bali, though he didn’t bring up the issue during the conference itself.
Teuku Faizasyah affirmed the they had discussed Papua at the meeting, but would not tell what had been said, instead reaffirming the Indonesian government’s position denying human rights abuses in Papua.